Less than 48 hours after the ICC World Twenty20 final in Colombo, the cricketing world will usher in the fourth edition of the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa.
The tournament proper begins on October 13, but in the three days leading up to game one in Johannesburg there will be six teams in the qualifying round of matches. From here, two will gain entry into the CLT20. These six teams are Uva Next (winners of the inaugural Sri Lankan Premier League) Trinidad & Tobago, Hampshire, Yorkshire, Auckland Aces and Sialkot Stallions – Pakistan’s first representation at the lucrative Twenty20 league.
India’s representation at the CLT20 is the largest, with four IPL teams to contest the trophy which gives the winners $2.3 million. These included defending champions Mumbai Indians, former holders Chennai Super Kings, current IPL winners Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils. It is on the performances of these four teams that CLT20's success rests because of the star value attached and the big Indian community in South Africa.
Sachin Tendulkar, the face of Indian cricket, has returned from injury to strengthen Mumbai; Indian captain MS Dhoni will again lead Chennai; Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata’s adopted son, will hope to channel KKR’s IPL 5 win into another coveted trophy; and though Delhi will be led by Mahela Jayawardene instead of Virender Sehwag, the presence of players like David Warner, Kevin Pietersen and Ross Taylor in the ranks will automatically get DD fans enthused.
The other teams who will feature in the CLT20 are Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers – winners and runners-up in Australia’s Big Bash League – and the two South African domestic teams Lions and Titans along with two qualifying teams.
This will again be a great opportunity for young stars to rub shoulders with the icons of the game and raise their standard. Also, low-profile players will have the opportunity to showcase their performance on the world stage. They are not very accustomed with glamour and money; they will get that opportunity as well.
The main tournament is divided into two groups. In the first are KKR, Delhi, Perth Scorchers, Titans and one of the qualifying teams. The second group will comprise CSK, Mumbai, Sydney Sixers, Lions and the other qualifier. The defending champions will face a tough competition as all the teams are well balanced and have the arsenal to disturb others.
This year’s CLT20 was shifted to South Africa from India due to the monsoon and the fact that its festival season in the country at this time, giving rise to security issues. India would have been the best possible country to host the tournament from every aspect but South Africa is surely the second best option.
The last time the CLT20 was held in South Africa was in 2010, and the crowds responded to it immensely to make it a success. The tournament organizers are again expecting healthy crowds, especially once the four IPL teams make their presence felt.